How the US is facing its ‘greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War’

How the US is facing its ‘greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War’

During the George W. Bush era, liberals and progressives often found themselves in sharp disagreement with the neoconservative foreign policy views of Robert Kagan — who was a major proponent of the invasion of Iraq and served as a foreign policy adviser to the late Sen. John McCain during his 2008 presidential campaign. But these days, the 62-year-old Kagan is a blistering critic of Trumpism and often finds common ground with Democrats. And in a sobering essay/op-ed published by the Washington Post on September 23, Kagan lays out some reasons why U.S. democracy is in serious trouble.

"The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves," warns Kagan, who supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 election. "The warning signs may be obscured by the distractions of politics, the pandemic, the economy and global crises, and by wishful thinking and denial."

Kagan predicts that "barring health problems," Trump "will be the Republican candidate for president in 2024."

"Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary," Kagan explains. "Trump's charges of fraud in the 2020 election are now primarily aimed at establishing the predicate to challenge future election results that do not go his way. Some Republican candidates have already begun preparing to declare fraud in 2022, just as Larry Elder tried meekly to do in the California recall contest."

The Never Trumper makes an ominous prediction: in 2024, Republicans will try to throw out any election results that they don't like.

"The amateurish 'stop the steal' efforts of 2020 have given way to an organized nationwide campaign to ensure that Trump and his supporters will have the control over state and local election officials that they lacked in 2020," Kagan warns. "Those recalcitrant Republican state officials who effectively saved the country from calamity by refusing to falsely declare fraud or to 'find' more votes for Trump are being systematically removed or hounded from office. Republican legislatures are giving themselves greater control over the election certification process."

Republicans, Kagan adds, "have proposed or passed measures in at least 16 states that would shift certain election authorities from the purview of the governor, secretary of state or other executive-branch officers to the legislature."

"The stage is thus being set for chaos," Kagan writes. "Imagine weeks of competing mass protests across multiple states as lawmakers from both parties claim victory and charge the other with unconstitutional efforts to take power. Partisans on both sides are likely to be better armed and more willing to inflict harm than they were in 2020. Would governors call out the National Guard? Would President Biden nationalize the Guard and place it under his control, invoke the Insurrection Act, and send troops into Pennsylvania or Texas or Wisconsin to quell violent protests? Deploying federal power in the states would be decried as tyranny. Biden would find himself where other presidents have been — where Andrew Jackson was during the nullification crisis, or where Abraham Lincoln was after the South seceded — navigating without rules or precedents, making his own judgments about what constitutional powers he does and doesn't have."

Kagan continues, "Today's arguments over the filibuster will seem quaint in three years if the American political system enters a crisis for which the Constitution offers no remedy. Most Americans — and all but a handful of politicians — have refused to take this possibility seriously enough to try to prevent it."

In an op-ed that was headlined "This Is How Fascism Comes to America" and published by the Washington Post on May 18, 2016, Kagan slammed Trump as a "threat to our democracy" — warning that what he represented wasn't traditional conservatism, but fascism. And Kagan emphasizes, in his September 2021 op-ed, that Trump hasn't grown any less dangerous since then.

Kagan explains, "The events of January 6…. proved that Trump and his most diehard supporters are prepared to defy constitutional and democratic norms, just as revolutionary movements have in the past…. While it might be shocking to learn that normal, decent Americans can support a violent assault on the Capitol, it shows that Americans as a people are not as exceptional as their founding principles and institutions. Europeans who joined fascist movements in the 1920s and 1930s were also from the middle classes. No doubt many of them were good parents and neighbors, too."

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